Coronavirus Update: Singapore raises Disease Outbreak Level to Orange
Following several cases of novel coronavirus without any links to previous cases or travel history to mainland China, today, Friday, February 7, 2020, Singapore raised its Disease Outbreak Response System Condition (DORSCON) from level Yellow to Orange.
This announcement follows the confirmation of 3 new cases today, all of which do not have links to previous cases or travel to mainland China. This brings the total number of confirmed cases to 33.
The way Singapore deals with outbreaks like the novel coronavirus is guided by DORSCON. The color-coded system – which has Green, Yellow, Orange, and Red categories – shows the current situation. It also indicates what needs to be done to prevent and reduce the impact of infections.
DORSCON Orange means that the disease is deemed severe and spreads easily from person to person but has not spread widely and is being contained.
“This is not the first time which we’ve actually changed our DORSCON level and reached DORSCON Orange,” said Associate Professor Kenneth Mak, director of medical health services, Ministry of Health (MOH) .
“On the previous occasion (it was) in relation to the H1N1 influenza outbreak which actually occurred in many countries in the world, we had done the same as well.”
The MOH reported that with immediate effect, schools will suspend inter-school and external activities until the end of the March holidays. These include the national school games, learning journeys. and camps. All schools and teachers will also continue to implement already announced enhanced measures such as classroom-based assemblies.
“I understand that Singaporeans are anxious, concerned and there’s much that we do not yet know about the virus,” said Health Minister Gan Kim Yong at a media briefing on Friday afternoon.
“New information is emerging daily, we expect that this is likely to take time to resolve, maybe months, life cannot come to a stand-still but we should take all the necessary precautions and carry on with life.”
He added: “We will do our best to contain the situation and keep Singaporeans safe. As we had a better understanding of that illness and realized that in fact, its behavior was very similar to what other forms of influenza was, it provided us with the opportunity to reassess the risk associated with this infection to our population and then lower our DORSCON accordingly, and then eventually back to normal.”
National Development Minister Lawrence Wong, who was also at the briefing, said the authorities may have to adopt a different strategy based on how the virus evolves.
“There is another scenario – which in a way (Assoc Prof Mak) alluded to: Because if you look at the situation now, the mortality rate in China is 2 per cent but outside of Hubei province, the mortality rate for this virus is 0.2 per cent. It is much lower than SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome),” said Mr. Wong.
“And if the mortality rate remains low or even continues to fall further, depending on the evidence and depending on how it evolves, then I think we are dealing with something quite different and we may well have to consider a different approach.”
He added: “So these are two scenarios of how the situation may unfold. It is too early to tell right now what the strategy will be, but I am just sharing possibilities of how things may unfold in the future.”
With the “heightened risk posture” of DORSCON Orange, MOH said it will be introducing new precautionary measures.
“We have planned for such a scenario that involves community spread,” MOH said.
Organizers of large events should take necessary precautions such as carrying out temperature screening, looking out for respiratory symptoms such as cough or runny nose and denying entry to unwell individuals. Individuals who are unwell, on leave of absence or have recent travel history to mainland China should not attend such events.
MOH also urged organizers to cancel or defer non-essential large-scale events. At workplaces, employers should require their employees to conduct regular temperature taking and check whether they have respiratory symptoms.